The 2023 Mercian collaboration conference was hosted at the University of Birmingham Exchange conference centre, in September 2023. The theme of the conference was ‘Putting change into action: development, diversity and drive‘ and two LLS University of Leicester (UoL) colleagues, Alex Marshall (Content Discovery Manager) and Sheree Dewey (Content Services Manager) were both first time attendees at this conference, and both have said what a valuable and useful conference it was. In particular, they commented on how varied the programme was, covering a range of interesting themes and topics. Conference materials from the event can be viewed from the conference Website.
Alex’s reflections from the event
It was my first time attending an in-person event since 2019, and it proved to be a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues. The weather was surprisingly warm, but we kept (mostly) cool in the wonderful venue – The Exchange in Birmingham. The day began with an engaging keynote from Ben Davies (Chimp Management) who gave us some tips for managing change effectively using the Chimp Model. We then moved onto the breakout sessions, where we were spoilt for choice! In the morning, I attended a very interesting session with Lara Skelly (Loughborough University), who demonstrated some of the techniques she is using to make weird and wonderful resources accessible. This was followed by a workshop led by Georgina Dimmock and Fiona Watkins (University of Northampton), where the group shared their experiences of systems support in libraries and discussed whether Systems Librarians are an endangered species (thankfully, the consensus seemed to be ‘not yet’!) And then, after a delicious lunch, I heard about Birmingham City University’s experiences of conducting UX projects for discovery systems, and picked up some useful practical guidance on how to build a business case from Anna O’Neil (University of Warwick). The final session of the day was a round table discussion, where the panel gave their opinions on various topics around the conference’s theme ‘Putting change into action: development, diversity and drive’.
Overall, it was a great event, and I came away with lots of new knowledge and ideas.
Sheree’s reflections from the event
This was my first attendance at a Mercian conference and it was a very engaging, useful and busy day.
It was so good to touch base with so many of our Midlands colleagues. so many people I hadn’t met before at other events, but also some colleagues I hadn’t caught up with in a while!
- The sessions that I attended ranged from a session that very much applied to my “regular line of work” on “Rediscovery – launching 5 core systems within 9 months – innovation or insanity” – conclusion by Adam Robinson from University of Derby “a bit of both!”
- To two sessions/updates on inclusive recruitment from colleagues from University of Nottingham (Chris Addleton) and Nottingham Trent University (Kate Marshall) – very interesting and thought provoking. Practical session during “Thinking differently about recruitment” perfectly illustrated some of the figures that Kate provided on the existing workforce in the information sector. Session was so thought provoking and I will certainly be revisiting this when we next need to recruit to my team. I have shared my notes and observations from these sessions with my EDI group colleagues here at UoL as well as with wider library team.
- To a session on “Student Life and the library: a holistic UX approach by colleagues from University of Birmingham – highlighting the difference between student life in the recent and not so recent past and now. So interesting to hear from U0B are doing in the UX area with their students – will feed back to colleague that works with our library champions.
- To my final session on managing library budgets in the LMS by Natalie Baker-Fosker – session wasn’t quite what I expected but was so interesting and engaging. Natalie was a first time conference attendee and speaker, she candidly shared her nervousness with us (can so relate to that). Was really a joy to be involved in this session with her…
This variety of sessions and speakers as well as the interesting and topical round table discussion at the end of the conference ensured that this day went past in a flash! Would highly recommend attendance to other UoL colleagues in future. And I take away some top tips/observations/experiences to apply in future I am sure.